On her initial visit to my chiropractic office a patient asked me if her dizziness could be helped. She had been in an automobile accident and had suffered whiplash injuries to her neck. While I can never promise a cure, I told her that if we worked together as a team, we had a very good chance of improving her condition. This article will discuss how dizziness can develop when a neck injury occurs, how chiropractic care may be of help and recent research supporting the efficacy of chiropractic treatment for this problem.
When a person suffers an accidental neck injury, whether it be from a car accident, fall, blow to the head or other traumatic occurrence, many symptoms can occur. Of all the symptoms, dizziness may be the most concerning to a patient because of how it can limit their ability to move about in their daily routines.
Our balance is mainly a function of three areas of the body that provide sensory information. The first is our eyes. We all know that if we close our eyes, we lose some sense of balance. The second area is the balance mechanism of our ears. This is called the vestibular system. You may have had an experience being submerged for a short time in cold water and then experiencing some short-term wooziness and imbalance when you came out of the water. That was because the ear’s vestibular system was affected by the coldness of the water. The last area that provides balance sensory information are the joints of the body. The joints of our feet, hips and upper neck especially, send balance information to our brain.
In a traumatic neck injury, the spinal bones of the neck, called vertebrae, undergo a whipping action which can cause abnormal position misalignments. This is how the term “whiplash” was coined. It is more a layman’s term than a medical description. Misalignment of the vertebrae can cause significant neck pain but because the joints provide sensory balance information to the brain, dizziness can also be an accompanying symptom of a whiplash injury.
In 2019 a research study was performed in which gentle, safe chiropractic realignment treatments were given to 86 patients suffering chronic dizziness which had occurred from neck trauma. The patient participants in the group experienced an improvement in their dizziness and of their balance. The authors of the treatment concluded that chiropractic care was beneficial in the case of dizziness due to neck trauma.
Chiropractors are trained to evaluate neck injuries. Upon an initial visit to a doctor of chiropractic, a patient can expect to be asked questions about the type of trauma that occurred and what symptoms the patient is experiencing. Next, a chiropractor will perform an examination of the neck area. Objective tests noting muscle spasms, swelling and inflammation, loss of range of motion, abnormal alignment and lack of proper motion of the cervical vertebrae and joints are typically examined. X-rays of the neck are usually obtained to further inspect for trauma.
Once the chiropractor has thoroughly evaluated the patient’s injuries it can be determined if chiropractic care is appropriate. When this is the case, the chiropractor will utilize gentle, safe chiropractic adjustments to realign and restore proper motion to the vertebral joints of the patient’s cervical spine. Specific exercises to increase flexibility and improve strength to the area can also be a great help to the patient. Using therapeutic measures such as repetitive applications of cold packs to the neck, by the patient, can also provide pain relief and hasten healing.
I can happily report that the patient who came to me hoping for an improvement of her dizziness experienced a total elimination of her condition. Her balance problems completely resolved, and she was able to go about her every day activities with no problem. If patients and their doctors of chiropractic work together, with good teamwork, it is possible for the patient, suffering from dizziness, to have a good outcome.